What are Sectoral Practices and Experiences in Coordination (specs)?

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Sectoral Practices and Experiences in Coordination (SPECs)

Governance & Participation

What are Sectoral Practices and Experiences in Coordination (SPECs)?

An important part of the S/CRS mandate is to ensure that best practices and lessons learned from past USG stabilization and reconstruction operations fully inform policymaking, planning and operations. As part of this mandate, S/CRS issues a series of reports on best practices and experiences across the S&R sectors—security, governance and participation

humanitarian assistance and social well-being, economic stabilization, infrastructure, and justice and reconciliation. These reports aim to promote awareness of sectoral lessons learned among USG civilian and military policymakers, planners, and deploying field personnel, and are used in training and outreach efforts.
What is Governance and Participation?
Governance refers to the exercise of authority in a country. It involves the process of selecting and replacing governments and the capacity to formulate, implement, and enforce public policies. Governance can be good or bad, effective or ineffective, just or unjust. Good governance embodies such qualities as legitimacy, accountability, transparency, responsiveness, and public participation. It assumes a government’s ability to maintain peace, guarantee law and order, promote conditions necessary for economic growth, and ensure a minimum level of social security.
In S&R situations, the main lines of activity in the governance and participation sector include: national constituting processes; transitional governance; executive authority; legislative strengthening; local governance; transparency and anti-corruption; elections; political parties; civil society and media; and public information and communications. For specific guidance in each area, please refer to the Essential Task Matrix (ETM), which S/CRS developed in cooperation with interagency partners to guide planning in stability and reconstruction operations.
Lessons Learned in Governance and


Promote institutions that mediate conflict. Tap into indigenous sources of authority—i.e., religious, cultural, political, professional—that can help to moderate disputes. Establish ombudsman offices and dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration, community dispute centers, and dialogues that allow individuals and groups to voice grievances in a mediated setting.
Address grievances of marginalized groups. The grievances of marginalized groups can be a lingering source of potential conflict. Legal and institutional frameworks addressing key grievance issues like citizenship, voting, candidacies, and political action should be designed to protect their interests and mitigate potential conflict. Because rectifying imbalances in power relationships among different groups will likely be contentious, care must be given to finding the right balance between ensuring equal opportunities and ensuring equal outcomes through such mechanisms as quota systems.
Develop local capacity to deliver essential public services that symbolize stability. In the rush to stabilize and provide essential services, guard against the quick-fix of private or international entities providing everything positive that comes out of the government. Substitution functions weaken local capabilities and undermine the credibility of the state. Sustain as much as possible the local capacity existing after the conflict. Protect government offices from looting and, if vetting is called for, dismiss government employees selectively. Existing structures and competent staff can be used as a foundation for transitional governance.
Establish checks against the over-concentration of political power in the executive. Although the tendency is to focus on the executive branch of government during reconstruction and stabilization, this temptation should be resisted when possible. The over-concentration of political power is an extremely difficult dynamic to reverse at later stages of consolidation. Instead, the separation of powers is democracy’s historically proven remedy to guard against abuse of governmental power – and executive abuse of authority is a significant driver of conflict. Attention to legislative and judicial institutions to constrain executive authority enhances stable democracy.
Institute transparency and monitoring throughout government. The rush to rebuild post-conflict economies has often come at the expense of oversight and coordination, leading to high levels of corruption and a subsequent erosion of state legitimacy and stability. Governance structures should facilitate access to information and participatory monitoring by local communities and NGOs, and also establish institutional oversight of projects.
Manage unrealistically high public expectations. Citizens yearn for signs of normalcy in post-conflict settings, particularly in the delivery of basic services like electricity and schools. The state’s capacity to deliver in these areas is often weak, however. To manage public expectations, the authorities should establish mechanisms to regularly communicate with the public about service issues and plans, and to solicit public input and feedback. Such efforts could include posters, flyers, radio addresses, and town hall meetings.
Support the independence and professionalism of the media. Media reporting can provide information on the peace process and elections, alert citizens to services and aid, and dispel rumors. Independent and professional media can counter hate propaganda and messages of revenge. The media can also help new authorities and local actors communicate with the public on consensus building efforts and reform initiatives.
Encourage public participation in government. Average citizens emerge from conflict with a strong commitment to peace and a willingness to embrace change in order to realize a more stable and prosperous future. Yet during transitional periods, the legitimacy of government may be low and confidence in it fragile. Efforts should be made to tap into public support for peace through national dialogue, local council meetings, mayors’ or governors’ town meetings, and meetings of other civic institutions.
Allow time for political processes to mature before holding national elections. Early elections often put the perpetrators of conflict in power because political parties and alternative leaders have not had time to mature. Moreover, people are concerned with safety immediately after a conflict and so are more likely to elect those who can credibly promise to maintain order or protect their followers rather than to advance economic development, social justice or some other inclusive agenda. Time is also needed to register voters, train election staff, ensure a minimum level of security, and secure funding. While other factors may push for early elections, it is best to allow time for key political and social actors to reach consensus on basic rules of the game prior to holding elections.
Avoid factionalism. Block or create powerful disincentives for the formation of factionalized political parties that amplify social differences. Whatever constitutional provisions, electoral systems, or other institutions are adopted in a country, they should encourage political parties to seek support from varied social groups to gain power and should reward the ability to compromise. In place of majority rule, for example, the political system should consider proportional representation, consociationalism, trans-ethnic districting, or requiring that political parties recruit members from two-thirds of a country’s states.

Governance and Participation Key Partners

Department of Defense


Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities Global Security Affairs

Army War College Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

Joint Forces Command

Department of State


Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Regional Bureaus

Foreign Service Institute


Conflict Management and Mitigation

Office of Democracy and Governance

Office of Transition Initiatives

Regional Bureaus

Want to Know More?

What is S/CRS?

The office leads, coordinates, and institutionalizes U.S. Government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations, and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy and a market economy.

Who does S/CRS work with?

In addition to USG agencies, S/CRS works with key partners, including research institutes, lessons-learned units, and others, to avoid duplication of efforts and promote partnership and collaboration on lessons learned.

Suggested Further Reading for Governance and


Center for Global Development. On the Brink: Weak States and US National Security. Commission on Weak States and US National Security, June 2004.

Cole deGrasse, Beth and Christina Caan, “Transitional Governance: From Bullets to Ballots.” U.S. Institute of Peace. Stabilization and Reconstruction Report, July 2006.
Dobbins, James et al., The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2007.
Goldstone, Jack A. and Jay Ulfelder. “How to Construct Stable Democracies.” The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2004-2005.
Orr, Robert, ed. Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post Conflict Reconstruction. Washington, DC: CSIS Press, 2004.

US Agency for International Development. Fragile States Strategy. January 2005.

US Institute of Peace. “Reconstruction and Stabilization Operations: The Challenge Before Us.” Conference Conclusions, March 22-23, 2005.

Websites of Interest: External Sources

Center for Global Development

U.S. Institute of Peace

Center for Strategic and International Studies

IFES Center for Transitional and Post-Conflict Governance

USAID Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation



International Partners
Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit (U.K.)


North Atlantic Treaty Organization


European Union


United Nations


United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations


Drafted by: S/CRS – Phyllis Dininio: 3-0320

S/CRS MAsquino:



State/INL Ashley Kushnar OK

DOD/OSD Quentin Hodgson OK

S/CRS MSchimpp OK

D GDElgado info

P MBrooks OK


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